Of Male Bondage 

I Love You, Man: prick flick.

Other than beer commercials, has anything done more for the average American male's romantic possibilities in the last decade than Judd Apatow-related movies? In the past few years, we've seen the girl get gotten by the nerd (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), the schlub (Knocked Up), and the sad-sack (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Now, with I Love You, Man (directed and co-written by Apatow company man John Hamburg), it's the momma's boy's turn.

Hand in hand with the decline of male stock is the consistent stratospheric quality of the girls he gets. In the same order as the films listed above, there's been Catherine Keener, Katherine Heigl, and Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis. In I Love You, Man, Rashida Jones is up for the taking. Not that skin beauty is a beneficial chlorine to add to our species' gene pool, but as the unremarkable man gets repositioned as Mr. Right in the cultural consciousness, we are all witness to the soft misogyny of lowered expectations.

I Love You, Man starts off with the proposal of Peter (Paul Rudd) to Zooey (Jones). The plot generator kicks in when Zooey immediately calls all her girl friends to share the news, and Peter has no guys worth dialing, much less any worth naming as his best man. Henceforth, realtor Peter goes on a series of blind man dates with predictable but funny results before meeting Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) at an open house. A night of shared brewskis and fish tacos later, and the platonic man crush is on.

Peter, a serial monogamist, never had a reason to have a guy friend. (Zooey tells her gal pals that his best friend is probably his mother.) As such, Peter's in a state of arrested development, a thirtysomething who can't relate to his own gender. He's sensitive to the needs of women without regard to his own. He's a metrosexual without the fashion and hygiene compulsions.

Sydney, an honest and direct man who's completely comfortable in his own skin, takes Peter under his wing, and much of the film — a bona fide prick flick — examines the building blocks of male companionship: how guys talk, boundaries, language, intimacy. Is it any wonder Peter's relationship with Zooey suffers as Sydney passes on the mores of 21st-century manhood, positive and negative?

Like the forthcoming Adventureland, I Love You, Man isn't nearly as funny as it could be. It's not a bad thing in either instance. Rather than incessantly bowling us over with overt comedy, the film opts for chuckles that don't usually diminish the characters.

Or maybe it's just me. As is the case with much of this decade's popular fiction, a lot of the pleasure can be derived from the pop-culture references. It's how today's writers show how smart they are. I Love You, Man fetishizes Lou Ferrigno and the prog-rock band Rush, two touchstones I don't have much use for. If it had been Mr. T and KISS, it probably would've been a different story.

I Love You, Man

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